Trevor Morrow was born in Lambeg. He ministered in Lucan Presbyterian Church for 31 years before his retirement in 2014. He has worked across the communities in Ireland and was given an honorary doctorate by the University of Ulster for his services to reconciliation. This week, Trevor is speaking at three of the evening celebrations. Here the NH Media team brings you a summary of his message on Wednesday 10 August.
I have been given this responsibility to speak on how we can remember rightly in this year of commemoration. If you are over 40 on this island, you have lived through terrorism. We know that those who have committed monstrous acts are our neighbours. They are human beings, people we know, people who are made in the divine image. It is painful to remember.
We have come a long way. Bertie Ahern announced to the US congress, “Ireland is at peace,” yet we know that is a hyperbole. Sectarianism and division are still a reality. Middle class Christians are at times utterly removed from what is going on in some sectors of our community.
When Jesus taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven,” He is asking us to pray for the Shalom of God, the rule of God and the peace of God to be established in this land as it is in heaven.
The coming of Jesus is about God coming to earth to make peace, to be reconciled with His enemies. God created us for Himself, to love and be loved. We have shunned Him, we have betrayed Him, and we have hurt Him beyond anything we can imagine. The Christian story is about His story… making peace with us and reconciling us to the Father.
Reading from Philippians 2: 5 – 11. This is the model for peace making. It is quite clear from the Apostle Paul that we are to have the mind of Christ, the attitude of Christ, the demeanour of Christ.
Here are three things we are to see if we are to have peace with our enemies.
Kenosis is a really important Greek word to remember. It is difficult to translate. It is where Paul talks about Jesus who does not consider equality with God something to be grasped. He set aside His status and privilege. In the story of the Prince and the Pauper, the prince sets aside the privilege and status of royalty and lives as a beggar.
Jesus who is God, sets aside the privileges of His deity so He can enter into the pain of our broken humanity. He feels as we feel in our suffering. There is no special unique humanity created in Mary’s womb. It is our humanity – bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh. It had to be our humanity in order to heal us. It is as if a landlord become our lodger, like Beethoven queuing up for a ticket at his own concert, like Picasso painting by numbers… The incarnation meant total cultural and social identification in the life of those from whom He was alienated without ever ceasing to be who He was.
Jesus takes the form of a servant. He chooses not only to live among us but to serve those who are His enemies, those who have provoked His moral outrage and who have broken His heart. He comes not to be served but to serve and give His life as a ransom. The word in Greek means a table slave, someone who “waits” on tables. He focuses entirely and completely upon us and upon our needs. When we think of Jesus as a servant we think of the story of Jesus washing His disciples’ feet. For the God of Heaven this is outrageous but it is even much bigger than this. It is the entire scope of His ministry. Servanthood is the mark of the kingdom. When He sees people who are hungry, He feeds them. When the storm is raging, He stills the storm. When people are blind or deaf He brings healing. When there is death, He raises people from the dead.
From heaven you came helpless babe
Entered our world, your glory veiled
Not to be served but to serve
And give Your life that we might live
This is our God, The Servant King
Jesus lays down His life for His enemies. Jesus was put to death because was He was not PC in terms of second century Judaism. They expected their Messiah to come riding on a white horse to rescue Jerusalem from the Romans. The authorities conspired to put Him to death.
Jesus was obedient to death, even death on the cross. There was a conference in Oxford when CS Lewis was there and someone asked Lewis, “What is unique about the Christian faith. He answered “Grace.”
This is the heart of peacemaking. How is it possible for God to maintain the principles of justice and still make peace with those who are His enemies, with those who caused Him such pain? Some people think that in terms of dealing with those who have caused pain we should just put the past behind us. That is not the Jesus Way.
God is angry! This is not human pique with all its distortions. He is angry and hurt but instead of dumping His pain on us, He chooses to take it on Himself. Instead of insisting that we get what we deserve, He chooses to embrace it and to endure it for Himself.
But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed.
Is this natural or reasonable? No, of course not. For Jesus it required the obedience of love. Jesus did not die for us for fun. He hung there for love because it had to be done. That is why He wrestled in Gethsemane, sweating drops of blood, crying out to the Father, “If it is possible, take this from me, yet not my will but yours be done.”
Kenosis, Service and Sacrifice that is the foundation of peacemaking.
This application is so difficult. Here are the things that make for peace. You are to have the mind of Christ, the same attitude.
Whoever we are and wherever we are from, without denying who we are, we need to set aside those things that are ours by right and inheritance in order to identify with those from whom we are alienated.
How did Kenosis start in my life? I was in Hamilton Road 35 years ago, I was preaching a series on Jonah the bigoted prophet. He was called by God to preach to those he did not like (the Assyrians) in Ninevah, their capital city. Jonah had a choice to be a patriot or a prophet. He disobeyed God and brought upon himself the judgement of God. I applied this to evangelical Christianity in the North of Ireland with regard to those from whom we have been separated and alienated for generations.
Too often we have chosen to be patriots rather than prophets. We have a greater loyalty to the United Kingdom than to the Kingdom of God. Jesus set aside His rights and privileges. We who are the people of the word must be willing to set out our rights and privileges in order to identify from those who are separated from us.
My wife who is Welsh told me, “You are like Jonah. You are dumping on this church all the prejudices of your upbringing…” God’s word came to me and I moved to the Republic of Ireland… to my “Ninevah”!
If we are to engage in Kenosis here in the north, you need to know those from whom you have been separated. We need to know their history. I knew something about NI. Within the Republic of Ireland, they understand their story in a very different way. We need to meet with our neighbours. To interact with those who are different from us.
Kenosis is about cross cultural ministry – in the same way that Hudson Taylor identified with the people in China.
Even thought I have lived and ministered in the Republic of Ireland for all these years, I haven’t completely lost my identity. Even though I live in Leinster when Ulster play, I still stand up for the Ulstermen.
In order to make peace, we need to be aware that this is post Christendom Ireland. Some people respond by circling the wagons. The truth is we are in exile… we are in Babylon. We need to hear again the words of Jeremiah, so relevant for our times. We are to seek the peace and prosperity of the city. We are to be known primarily not as those who seek justice for ourselves but those who seek justice for others. It is an attitude of serving. Outside my window on a regular basis, there are those of the Keep Lucan Tidy brigade who arrive with their shovels and their plants. They are spending all this time serving us just to bless Lucan.
You may be in education or business or medicine… your role is the vocation of God to serve Babylon for the prosperity of the people because if Babylon prospers you will prosper. People will see your good deeds and glorify God.
Her Majesty the Queen is the servant queen. As a follower of Christ, what a great evangelist she is. As she gets older she gets bolder. This is the passion of her life – to serve the King as a servant queen. When she came to Ireland it was a seminal moment. Can you image an English monarch arriving in Ireland after so many years?
As the monarch she engaged in Kenosis. She wore green. She learnt to speak a few words in Irish. She was advised in her speeches to be sensitive to the culture. And then there was that extraordinary moment when with humility and grace and she came before the memorial for those who had been shot by the British army in the Easter rising and she bowed her head. This is servant hood.
For those of you who are loyal unionists, if her majesty the queen as a follower of Christ can do this, then so can you.
This is the most difficult of all. How can we be at peace with people who have hurt us? With people who have abused or misused us? How can we be at peace with such people without moral compromise? How are we to cope with our past? The folks of Stormont don’t know.
We could draw a line in the sand and encourage a form of amnesia and live in the hope that time will help us to forget. We could demand to know the truth, to see justice done but human justice is frail and fallible and it could be a bruising, dissatisfying pursuit of naked justice.
Is there another way in which we do not forget, a way which does not trivialise the injustice of what has been done but allows us to seek peace for ourselves and our community?
There is the Jesus way… only possible when there are three things present
Deep, deep pain, justifiable anger and moral outrage – that is the context. When something happens to us and we feel all of those things and we begin to realise that nothing can undo what has been done this is an opportunity for the miracle of mercy.
When we talk about forgiveness, it is a guilt trip for many people because they are still carrying so many unimaginable pains and hurts in their heart that they cannot even conceive of reaching out to the person who has hurt them. As a pastor, I know that this can take years but when it comes, healing comes for you too. It is the miracle of mercy.
God took the initiative. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Of course there can be no reconciliation without repentance but when that happens on a national scale. then we will see the coming of the kingdom. Then every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
What we will see therefore on this land is the coming of the rule of Christ. Justice will be done and will be seen to be done. Every knee will bow. Those who have been hurting will be vindicated but with justice will come peace. Every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. At Babel, the tongue became the symbol of division. When the kingdom comes, every tongue will confess, Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father – in English, in Irish and in Ulster Scots…
Download an MP3 of this message here.